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Diary: Pre-season was a mixed bag

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Iron fan Earl Priestley hopes defeat to Luton isn’t a sign of things to come ahead of the League One curtain-raiser with Wimbledon this Saturday at Glanford Park.

August is now upon us and and a month of training and friendlies are now behind us. Gone are the days when might see one the countries top sides visit us and a raft of trips to our non-league neighbours. Pre-season now is more specific training camps in foreign climes and games on these shores where we expect a good test.

First up for us was a short trip across the Humber to North Ferriby United. A hot summer’s afternoon for the first look at new signings, in a new shirt and a new look side. Gilks, Burgess and McArdle all viewed for the first time for us. A surprise as Liam Trotter featured, eight years after his successful loan spell in 2009. For many also the first chance to see young Leslie Sackey in the first team setup, after stepping up from the youth team. Leslie has the look of a player with potential to succeed, but then again, how many times have we said that? A close first half and a 2-0 lead. Both sides made numerous changes at half and the difference in quality was clear, as we eased to a 6-0 win. Hakeeb looked in good form, a distinct amount of effort from a player, whose form can be so irregular. A positive start.

Four days later and a trip to York. A team we used to play regularly in the league, now a full three levels below us. A much better side to test us and about an hour in we were two behind. Two quick goals though and a 2-2 draw. The second and final appearance of Liam Trotter as it turned out. He looked in good shape, but hard to really gauge what he really had to offer. It is pre-season after all.

For the second year in a row, the side flew out to Austria for a week. I’m told the quality of air over there is that much better and is one of the reasons we go. The only place I can think it may benefit us is at Oldham, or if we drew West Brom in the cup. Two games played against local sides, SV Austria Salzburg and SK Strobl and both won 6-0. Both sides possibly on a par with Brigg Town, which if we had played Brigg, at least it’s only 20 minutes up the road. Again what can you really learn from playing teams like this? Do they even push a player’s fitness? I’m sure to many, it’s just a glorified training session.

Back to good old Blighty and a home game against Sunderland. A side fresh out of the Premier League, after a ten year stay. New management and players alike, and mostly likely an expectation from their supporters to see them actually win a few games. For most of our supporters, the first chance to see us, since that Sunday evening in May. Those that did attend saw a good game of football, one which we should have won. Certainly one of the better friendlies in recent years.

Plenty of positives, including the first viewing of Funso Ojo, a player many of us would have been googling less then a week ago. He comes with a good reputation and we all know Turnbull knows talent. Or he certainly used to. Not a bad game for him, especially his ‘traction engine foot’. Another stand out performance from Hakeeb, arguably our best player pre-season. Always interesting to watch, more so when playing well.

One final game and a nice not so short trip to Luton Town. No disrespect to them, but there’s many more places we could have gone that would have made more sense than a 320-mile trip to Bedfordshire. Awful ground for parking doesn’t help either. A chance though to see new loan signing Devonte Redmond. I expected he might start but didn’t feature until an hour in. The half hour he did have, didn’t tell me much, as he didn’t get much of the ball. Again this is a young player who has never played at senior level, so time may tell.

As for the rest, a reasonable opening 45 minutes and a 1-1 half time score. A penalty for Luton that was several yards outside the box. The usual standard of officiating. The Iron off the pace in the second half, but my thinking (and hoping) is that in a ‘proper’ game we would see a much better performance. It wasn’t bad, but just left you thinking it should have been better. Matt Gilks looked solid in this game. There wasn’t a lot he could do for their second goal, but he looked comfortable and there was several decent chances.

So that was pre-season. What did I, or any of us really learn? To be honest not a lot. The three earlier purchases have all looked sound, and you can see in bits and pieces they can do well. Ojo looked reasonable against Sunderland, but nothing to shout about against Luton. I can’t really make any judgement on a player after 30 minutes in a friendly, the day after he signed for us.

All things need time. Have we got time to spare though? As Graham Alexander stated at the fans forum, leagues aren’t won in December. Again they aren’t lost. However, a good start can make sure you’re in the right position to be able to win them, come May. We’ll all have a much better idea of what to expect when September has passed, along with first ten or so games. So maybe someone should, as another contributor put’s it ‘Wake me up, when September ends‘.

#UTI

Written by Matt Blanchard

Part of the team since 2007, before becoming editor in 2013. Undertaken the role of match summariser during Scunthorpe United live match commentaries for BBC Radio Humberside. Seasonal contributor to football titles FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes and a finalist at the Football Blogging Awards in 2014.

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